Leveraging National Health Reform to Reduce Recidivism and Build Recovery

Presented to the National TASC Conference, May 2013

This presentation narrates the benefit the criminal justice system can gain from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and motivates stakeholders in the criminal justice arena to take advantage of these new opportunities. Currently, less than 10 percent of criminal justice involved individuals have some sort of health coverage, commonly this coverage is some form of Medicaid. Nationwide, beginning in 2014 (earlier in some jurisdictions), almost anyone who makes less than $15,000 a year and is not eligible for some other type of Medicaid or government sponsored health insurance will be eligible to enroll onto Medicaid. It is anticipated that one-third of these “newly eligibles” will be those involved in the criminal justice system, whether leaving jail or prison, or under probation supervision.

People under justice supervision are very likely to have substance use disorders, serious mental illness and/or chronic medical conditions compared with the general population. Through expanded coverage for low-income adults, services are expected to become available for this population. Forty years of research demonstrates that significant decreases in recidivism can be realized when substance abuse and mental health issues are treated. To yield significant and sustained results, justice systems must plan now to successfully transition these individuals from out of the facility and into health care in the community.

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